Tag Archives: book club

Cold Bath Street – A. J. Hartley

A ghostly story, set in Preston, read for book club. I really liked this story. I enjoyed the local setting – a real novelty. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set so firmly in a place I’m familiar with. I liked the ghostly premise, and found the story page turning. However, many at book club didn’t quite take to it as kindly. I felt like it was people who were really into this genre considered it a bit light – possibly a YA ghost story. I didn’t get that at all, but then I’m a massive wimp and probably couldn’t cope with anything more scary!!

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The cover of the book is stunning. I noticed the creepy face in the clouds fairly early on, but there’s also a creepy figure next to the boy and I didn’t notice that until book club. It’s done using a shiny overlay and it was great that it took a while to notice.

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I can’t separate out the fact that I enjoyed the story and really liked that I knew the locations involved. I know the streets around Ribbleton, Avenham park, the Harris Museum and Art gallery, the Miley tunnel, and of course Cold Bath Street.

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It’s a tiny street near the University

My favourite painting from The Harris Museum is even in the story.

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Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert James Gunn

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Aaaahhh Pauline!

This also nicely shows how beautifully illustrated the text is.ย  The illustrator is Janet Pickering.

So what is the story about? A boy dies. He gets trapped in limbo. Or The Bardo as I might like to call it since reading Lincoln in the Bardo (jk but that book is ace – do the audiobook though). There are NOT NICE things in this limbo. The living world can be accessed. Sort of, but it’s hard. Mystery and thrilling things ensue.

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book club

Also worth a mention, I found it a little jarring that the main character is called Preston. It just felt a little weird. Overall though, I enjoyed Cold Bath Street. It’s a genre I have almost no experience of, and I think a great introduction to it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

A young journalist, Monique Grant, is unexpectedly requested to interview Evelyn Hugo – rich, reclusive, old time Hollywood Mega Star. We know from the beginning that she must have been chosen for some reason, but we don’t know what that is…

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I enjoyed Seven Husbands. I didn’t get the reveal until it was revealed, so that was pleasing. If *I* manage to guess what is going to happen, then it really must be tragically obvious.

The book is set up with this mystery about why Monique has been chosen to interview Evelyn. We go back to the present every now and again, but the focus of the book is on Evelyn telling her life story.ย The book is split into sections named after each of Evelyn’s husbands. Each with adjectives describing the husband. I liked this as a way of introducing the tone of the next marriage. There are also occasional newspaper articles on Evelyn and her life.

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I suggested Seven Husbands for my book club. It was generally thought of as OK, but there’s not much to discuss about it, other than it was an enjoyable story. The funniest thing was someone noticing that it was the number 1 book in erotic bisexual fiction on Amazon. I’m afraid this might have left a few people a bit disappointed by the content! It’s, sadly, an extremely tame book in this respect!

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It’s essentially a good read. Hollywood love story, fame, love that can’t be made public, part mystery, glamour, dark secrets, it’s got a lot going on. Just don’t pick it for book club!

 

 

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

Four scientist women discover how to time travel. They successfully keep control of the technology and therefore become very rich and powerful, except one who is ostracised after the very first successful time jump.

We follow the women’s stories throughout their lives, and through their descendants.ย  Of course, not in any completely sensible linear way, because half of the characters are time travellers.

It’s a really good, quite thrilling read and I enjoyed a slightly unusual take on time travel. There’s no danger of anyone messing up the timeline because they live in a deterministic Universe. So we don’t have to deal with the Grandparent paradox or any classic time travel dangers. No split timelines, or parallel universes. It’s a nice straightforward way to do time travel! And yet, somehow, even though the events are predetermined, there’s still quite a good exciting story line!

Because there are no dangers associated with someone seeing themselves in this Universe, it means someone can hang out with themselves from different times. This leads to some great scenes, and some of my favourite moments of the book. For example, two characters are newly entering a relationship, when an older version of one of the characters shows up at their flat to restock the kitchen and do a bit of cleaning.

I had a little bit of trouble keeping up with all the characters – this would probably be ok if I had a paper copy of the book, rather than an ebook, because I would have just flicked back to remind myself who everyone was. It wasn’t that confusing though really ๐Ÿ˜€

Over all I enjoyed this book. An interesting, fun take on time travel, weaved into a thrilling adventure. Great fun.

Wake – Anna Hope


Set over five days in November 1920, Wake follows the lives of 3 women in the aftermath of the First World War, in the run up to the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. It focuses on the effect of the war on the women left behind, and the general disruption to society in the years afterwards.

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Wake manages to get across the feeling of collective grief felt by society after the war, and the dreadful situations many people found themselves in, particularly the poor soldiers who were traumatised, then abandoned by the government shortly after they returned home.

The chapters are interspersed with the story of the Unknown Warrior: the finding of a suitable body, the process of transporting it from France, and finally the burial. I liked how this linked the different stories, with it being the big news of the day, all the characters discuss it.

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The three main stories in the book are about Hettie, a dancer at the Hammersmith Palais, whose brother has returned from the war a broken man. Evelyn, who lost her lover during the war and is now living a very grey existence without him. Finally, Ada whose son is missing, presumably dead, but she never received an official letter about him.

The stories of these women mean that a large cross section of the whole society are covered by the story. Different age groups and classes are all involved, and all are broken by the war in different ways.

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Wake was chosen by my book club as we would be meeting near Remembrance Day. I really enjoyed in and was particularly glad to not have to read a book about how grim life in the trenches was. It was nice to read about how grim life in the UK could be after the war. ๐Ÿ˜€

The burial of the Unknown Warrior gives a potentially depressing book a more hopeful ending as it signifies the start of a collective healing for society and for some of our main characters. I really enjoyed Wake and would definitely recommend it.

Miss Nightingale’s Nurses – Kate Eastham

Ada Houston’s brother, and only surviving family, goes missing on Liverpool Docks. As she strongly suspects he has ended up on a ship to the Crimea, she follows and ends up becoming a nurse, helping the wounded of the Crimean War. Set in the 1850s, through Ada’s journey we find out about the origins of nursing as a profession, and about the Crimean War. It’s a really enjoyable read and I learnt loads from it too.

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breakfast.

In all honesty, I would never have picked this book to read in a million years. It doesn’t have a cover that appeals to me – it slightly makes me judge it and want to run away. I read it because it was chosen for a book club I’m in. And even more interestingly, Kate Eastham IS IN THE BOOK CLUB. No pressure then… I approached it with trepidation, but genuinely enjoyed it. I’m not even just being nice. It’s a really good book. The book club discussion was also really good because Kate was there (BRAVE!) and so we learnt a lot about the process of getting published too. It was a great night at book club!

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theming my picture with some NURSING STUFF

Ada Houston is a great character. She’s strong and quite feisty, without it being over the top. I loved the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that I was dreading one thing happening, and that thing didn’t happen, and I was very happy. Hahaha. She encounters Florence Nightingale briefly, on her way to the front. There she has a lot more to do with Mary Seacole.

I didn’t really know anything about Mary Seacole before reading Miss Nightingale’s Nurses, or much about the Crimean War at all. Coincidentally, my five year old daughter has been learning about Mary Seacole at school, and she saw the cover of Miss Nightingale’s Nurses and asked if the lady on the cover was Mary Seacole! I mean, no clearly not, but she recognised the type of nurses outfit from the Crimean War times. She then went on the tell me some facts about Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (like before them, you could just do a job if you decided to, and then afterwards you had to be trained. They made hospitals clean. Florence had a lamp. And they were from 200 THOUSAND years ago. So close). So yeh, this book provided some sort of idyllic, educational moment in my household. Ha!

 

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That chocolate was completely EPIC.

Ada’s adventure allows us to travel right to the front and get fully involved in some Crimean War action. We get to find out about the horror of war for the soldiers, and also for the supporting people like the doctors and nurses. It’s definitely not a sanitised look at the effects of war – there are some quite detailed medical bits in this book! But above all else, it’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

This is the first in a series of books that are all generally themed around the history of nursing. The next book is about nursing after the Crimean War, in Liverpool. Where the Nightingale nurses came home and became established in hospitals.ย  I think this one will be interesting too!

 

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop is a sweet love story about a nice man who runs a music shop, and an unusual German lady.

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Frank, the shop owner, also has a special skill. He can tell exactly what music a person needs to listen to. What they *really* need at that moment in their life. And he’s kind. And he will only sell vinyl. He’s very strict about that. But it’s 1988 and vinyl is on its way out.

Franks’s shop is on a little tucked away street of independent shops called Unity Street. There’s a bakers, a funeral parlour, a tattooist, a florist, and a shop for religious iconography. All struggling to survive against the big chains in town. The cast of characters in Frank’s world are great. The other shop owners, and various regulars in the shop, were all quirky enough to be interesting without being unbelievable.

Enter Ilse, the unusual German lady with a green coat who rocks Franks’s world. Ilse is the only person who Frank can’t decide what music she wants.

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I liked The Music Shop. It’s very sweet and it has a quite sweet ending. But the sweet ending also made me feel really quite sad. It was bittersweet. I can’t explain more without giving the plot away.

I struggled to picture Ilse. Not having a picture of her in my mind – age, shape, anything really – made is tricky for me to connect with her character. But I’m now wondering if that was the point… like Frank couldn’t read her… and neither could I… ooh…

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I really liked Frank and his shop though. The (many) descriptions of music were really enjoyable too. Frank seemed like such a sweetheart and I just felt this even more as his childhood, and his relationship with his mother, is revealed to us as we go through the book.

Overall it was a nice read. As a music fan, I loved all the music references, and music chat. But it’s a sweet love story, easy to read, and has some fab characters.

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

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I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

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I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!